#1
Ive been meaning to make this post for a while, because im very confused about alot of terms being thrown around regarding pickups, more specifically related to sounds. ive been looking for pickups for a long time, and long story short, after being broke for many months of unemployment, i might finally finally finally be almost ready to make some purchases.

my confusions are as follows:

1. Output. i know higher output pickups can drive an amp to get more gain, but what else will it do for me? does it equal clarity? ive seen some people say it does, and some say it doesnt. high vs low output? if i had two pickups with the same eq curve, one was low output and one was considered high output, what would the tonal differences be? can someone explain in at least some detail?

2. probably where i want/need the most info, and im sure alot of other people would love an explanation that anyone could provide, is terms like (but not limited to):

"focused mids"
"smooth mids"
"upper mids"
"lower mids"
modern vs vintage voicing
tight bass response
fat mids
warm bass
harmonics(like on dimarzios site, the pickup finder lets you select "more harmonics" this confuses me. is this referring to a quality in a played chord or like natural and artificial harmonics?)
compression
etc.

i know some of these seem elementary, and i honestly know at least a bit about say half of them, but i would like answers to be as entry level as possible, because i want a better fundamental understanding of these terms which i am unclear on.

thanks to all who respond, any links or comparisons to existing pickups via sound clip or product specs will be greatly appreciated. i feel like this sort of thing should be in the pickup thread. ive done some "what pickup" threads and ive emailed bkp about their suggestion, but really when it comes down to it ill be the best recommendation to myself especially if i can better understand qualities of pickups.
Gibson SG Special Faded(Super Distortion/PAF Pro)
Carvin V3M
Jet City JCA2112RC
Taylor 114e
Ibanez SR300e

Quote by Delanoir
In 60 years, there will still be Opeth.
You know why?
Death ain't got **** on Mikael.
#2
1. output = volume in the most basic sense. if you have a curve with lots of bass, the bass will be even more pronounced with more output as output is essentially the power the send signal from the pickup.
2. i will provide what i can:
upper mids = frequencies in between treble and mid
lower mids = frequencies in between bass and mid
modern voicing will probably have a sharper attack and clarity where vintage may be smoother and have more mids.
compression = volume limiter. a highly compressed sound will make your light plucks sound as loud as your strong strums. this limits your range but gives you more consistency.
tight/focused is a more sharp and pronounced frequency. basically a sharp eq curve making the upper part of the curve stand out even more and making it clear. smooth/fat sounds come from smoothing this curve giving a more subtle enhancement to a frequency.

honestly, i was never sure what dimarzio meant by more harmonics. i would think its just a sensitive pickup with a sharp treble curve.

hope this helps.
Mesa F-30 - 1x12 V30
PRS SE Custom 24 (GFS Crunchy PATs)
PRS SE Singlecut (Evo/Air Norton)
1989 Starforce (GFS PowerRails)
Morley Tremonti Power Wah, TS7 (808-Mod), Pitchblack, Boss DD-3, DE FnC
#3
Just like trying to describe any musical attribute is difficult, it is probably easiest for you to HEAR examples of different pickups so you can attach the terms with the sounds you hear.
Really, the big differences are between single coils and humbuckers, and then between passive and active pickups. Once you know which category pickup you want, it really comes down to "I like the way pickup A sounds more than pickup B"
#4
Quote by xxunder-takerxx
1. output = volume in the most basic sense. if you have a curve with lots of bass, the bass will be even more pronounced with more output as output is essentially the power the send signal from the pickup.
2. i will provide what i can:
upper mids = frequencies in between treble and mid
lower mids = frequencies in between bass and mid
modern voicing will probably have a sharper attack and clarity where vintage may be smoother and have more mids.
compression = volume limiter. a highly compressed sound will make your light plucks sound as loud as your strong strums. this limits your range but gives you more consistency.
tight/focused is a more sharp and pronounced frequency. basically a sharp eq curve making the upper part of the curve stand out even more and making it clear. smooth/fat sounds come from smoothing this curve giving a more subtle enhancement to a frequency.

honestly, i was never sure what dimarzio meant by more harmonics. i would think its just a sensitive pickup with a sharp treble curve.

hope this helps.

thanks that helps, but as for when i said upper and lower mids, i mean the term implys where the frequencies are, but i guess i want to ask, "what do high mids sound like?" etc.

and the whole vintage = higher mids thing alot of people seem to say makes little sense to me, because everyone in the djent movement, along with alot of other modern ish metal type bands always explain how they get their sounds by saying they use very mid range heavy amps/curves etc.
Gibson SG Special Faded(Super Distortion/PAF Pro)
Carvin V3M
Jet City JCA2112RC
Taylor 114e
Ibanez SR300e

Quote by Delanoir
In 60 years, there will still be Opeth.
You know why?
Death ain't got **** on Mikael.
#5
Quote by Linqua5150
1. Output. i know higher output pickups can drive an amp to get more gain, but what else will it do for me? does it equal clarity? ive seen some people say it does, and some say it doesnt. high vs low output? if i had two pickups with the same eq curve, one was low output and one was considered high output, what would the tonal differences be? can someone explain in at least some detail?


it doesn't work this way, output does not exist in a vacuum, it is not a statistic that can be treated as an independent variable to compare two different pups. the output rating is a result of the 'mechanisms' of the device.

in other words you can have two pups that are very different in design with similar 'numbers' that play completely different. the output of the pup is a statistical result of the design, not an absolute indicator of resulting sound.

i higher output pickup will tend to push the first gain stage in the preamp of a guitar amplifier; but there is not much more usable info i can tell you about high output vs. low output. for example, a common piece of advice on UG is high output pups = better brootz, i actually prefer fairly low output pups (and single coils at that) for heavier guitar tones.

Quote by Linqua5150
2. probably where i want/need the most info, and im sure alot of other people would love an explanation that anyone could provide, is terms like (but not limited to):

"focused mids"
"smooth mids"
"upper mids"
"lower mids"
modern vs vintage voicing
warm bass
fat mids


these are terms that salesmen use to sell products and usually have a more meaning for the people using these words than the people hearing these words.

Quote by Linqua5150
tight bass response


this usually means that the bass keeps it's definition and tonality and doesn't sound 'fuzzy' and undefined in the mix.

Quote by Linqua5150
harmonics(like on dimarzios site, the pickup finder lets you select "more harmonics" this confuses me. is this referring to a quality in a played chord or like natural and artificial harmonics?)


harmonics... lets not get technical and just say that harmonics make a sound signal sound more 'interesting' and 'colorful'. lets also say that the 'shape' and number of harmonics define certain distinct characteristics of a sound. lets also say that sounds with very few, simple harmonics sound 'boring' and sounds more, complex harmonics sound 'interesting'. too few or many harmonics can make an unfavorable sound.

Quote by Linqua5150
compression


compressing an audio signal is another way of saying "i am going to make an audio signal's volume differences less noticeable", compression means you'll notice less difference in volume when strumming softer or louder and compression makes your playing sound more even and uniform at the cost of a loss of dynamics.


Quote by Linqua5150
i know some of these seem elementary, and i honestly know at least a bit about say half of them, but i would like answers to be as entry level as possible, because i want a better fundamental understanding of these terms which i am unclear on.


if you really wanna get educated then start learning about different types of pup designs and what kinda materials they use. else just find a set of highly regarded pups and be happy with them. many phrases and terminology used in this market is pretty misleading and little more than ear candy, so be careful.

Quote by Linqua5150
thanks that helps, but as for when i said upper and lower mids, i mean the term implys where the frequencies are, but i guess i want to ask, "what do high mids sound like?" etc.


http://www.recordingeq.com/EQ/req0400/OctaveEQ.htm

that tells you what different frequencies sound like to your ear. harmonic content is, by definition, a higher frequency than the fundamental so harmonics 'color' a sound at the higher frequency ranges (mids, highs).

for example, a guitar's low E vibrates at ~80 hz, the guitar's harmonic content is based on even intervals of the fundamental:

fundamental : 80 hz
1st harmonic : 160 hz
2nd harmonic : 240 hz
3rd harmonic : 320 hz

each harmonic should be a certain ratio of loudness compared to the fundamental (further shaping the harmonic content of the sound). so you'd look at the all the harmonic content of that note above and look at the table in that link above and you can get an idea of what a sound may be like. according to the chart, that signal should have quite a bit of rumble and presence but may lack attack and high end frequency complexity, sounding potentially muddy. adding more harmonic content could brighten it up.
punk isn't dead, it's always smelled that way.

"A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem."
-ae
Last edited by gumbilicious at Nov 27, 2011,
#6
Quote by gumbilicious
it doesn't work this way, output does not exist in a vacuum, it is not a statistic that can be treated as an independent variable to compare two different pups. the output rating is a result of the 'mechanisms' of the device.

in other words you can have two pups that are very different in design with similar 'numbers' that play completely different. the output of the pup is a statistical result of the design, not an absolute indicator of resulting sound.

i higher output pickup will tend to push the first gain stage in the preamp of a guitar amplifier; but there is not much more usable info i can tell you about high output vs. low output. for example, a common piece of advice on UG is high output pups = better brootz, i actually prefer fairly low output pups (and single coils at that) for heavier guitar tones.


these are terms that salesmen use to sell products and usually have a more meaning for the people using these words than the people hearing these words.


this usually means that the bass keeps it's definition and tonality and doesn't sound 'fuzzy' and undefined in the mix.


harmonics... lets not get technical and just say that harmonics make a sound signal sound more 'interesting' and 'colorful'. lets also say that the 'shape' and number of harmonics define certain distinct characteristics of a sound. lets also say that sounds with very few, simple harmonics sound 'boring' and sounds more, complex harmonics sound 'interesting'. too few or many harmonics can make an unfavorable sound.


compressing an audio signal is another way of saying "i am going to make an audio signal's volume differences less noticeable", compression means you'll notice less difference in volume when strumming softer or louder and compression makes your playing sound more even and uniform at the cost of a loss of dynamics.


if you really wanna get educated then start learning about different types of pup designs and what kinda materials they use. else just find a set of highly regarded pups and be happy with them. many phrases and terminology used in this market is pretty misleading and little more than ear candy, so be careful.


http://www.recordingeq.com/EQ/req0400/OctaveEQ.htm

that tells you what different frequencies sound like to your ear. harmonic content is, by definition, a higher frequency than the fundamental so harmonics 'color' a sound at the higher frequency ranges (mids, highs).

for example, a guitar's low E vibrates at ~80 hz, the guitar's harmonic content is based on even intervals of the fundamental:

fundamental : 80 hz
1st harmonic : 160 hz
2nd harmonic : 240 hz
3rd harmonic : 320 hz

each harmonic should be a certain ratio of loudness compared to the fundamental (further shaping the harmonic content of the sound). so you'd look at the all the harmonic content of that note above and look at the table in that link above and you can get an idea of what a sound may be like. according to the chart, that signal should have quite a bit of rumble and presence but may lack attack and high end frequency complexity, sounding potentially muddy. adding more harmonic content could brighten it up.

thank you for this amazing post! i love the semi technical info you included, i know i said i wanted elementary examples, but im studying in a technical field so that actually helped me understand as well. some of this stuff new to me, some builds and reinforces things i already know. its good to hear that the output doesnt necessarily correspond to a certain sound or gain or volume or whatever, because i have an old knock of les paul of my dads from like the 70s or 80s with what are probably shitty paf copies, and i feel like they get pretty decent higher gain tones in terms of saturation(they are not necessarily very clear or good in the unwanted noise department).
Gibson SG Special Faded(Super Distortion/PAF Pro)
Carvin V3M
Jet City JCA2112RC
Taylor 114e
Ibanez SR300e

Quote by Delanoir
In 60 years, there will still be Opeth.
You know why?
Death ain't got **** on Mikael.
#7
in terms of output...

if you plug into an amp and keep the same settings

a hot pickup will sound like a paf level pickup with a bit of boost.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer